Pilgrimage, Culture and Matsusaka’s Connection to the World


Matsusaka has been connected with a wide
range of people, information, and cultural
activities from long ago.

Matsusaka's "Segyo" Hospitality

Offering Support to Travelers

Segyo is the practice of providing support and hospitality to pilgrims on their way to the Ise Grand Shrine. This included offering a variety of things, such as rice porridge, rice balls, money, straw sandals, conical hats, basket palanquins, and horses for free. During the busiest times of mass pilgrimage, the merchant families, monks, and townspeople, as well as nearby villagers, would come to Matsusaka to practice segyo.

Places Providing Segyo

Many of the towns along the road to the Ise Grand Shrine had places offering segyo to pilgrims in the form of things like rice balls and money. These places were marked with signs saying "Hospitality for Pilgrims," and were managed by townspeople.

The Nationwide Network:
Sangu Kobin

Exchanging Information via Pilgrims

The Nationwide Network: Sangu Kobin

Sangu kobin refers to the practice of entrusting letters to pilgrims heading to the Ise Grand Shrine. While the people of Matsusaka used couriers to deliver letters to their shops in Edo and Kyoto, they also used sangu kobin when corresponding with other regions. Motoori Norinaga, who had disciples across Japan, frequently used this method. While the pilgrims were visiting the Ise Grand Shrine, he would read the letters, write his reply, and entrust the pilgrims with his response as they returned.

Matsusaka and the World

The Globally-Minded People
of Matsusaka

Since the Edo period, there have been individuals in Matsusaka who have turned their attention to the outside world. Three of the best known are Kadoya Shichirobe, who traded with Vietnam, Takegawa Chikusai, who grasped world trends when Japan's borders were closed during the Sakoku period (1639-1854), and famed tea exporter Otani Kahe.


Kadoya Shichirobe and Trade
with Vietnam

Kadoya Shichirobe traveled to Vietnam in a shogunate-licensed ship, and made his fortune trading in items like sugar and raw silk. Japan's borders closed after he went to Vietnam, and he was unable to return home. He did, however, continue to send donations back to the Ise Grand Shrine over the course of his life.

Takegawa Chikusai's Essay on
Opening Japan

After the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, Takegawa Chikusai wrote a treatise titled "Gokoku Ron," (meaning "The Defense of Our Country") which he presented to the Tokugawa shogunate via the statesman Katsu Kaishu. Unlike what the title seems to suggest, his work argued for the active opening of Japan's borders.

Exporting Japanese Tea Around
the World

Otani Kahe worked in Yokohama as a trader, and established his own company to export Japanese tea. Otani met directly with US President McKinley after Japan reopened, and advocated for the elimination of tariffs on Japanese tea. Otani is known for his contributions to expanding the exportation of Japanese tea.

"Madoi" Cultural Gatherings

Cultural Meetups in a Merchant Town

Matsusaka merchants would often hold lively cultural gatherings called "madoi," where they practiced a variety.